Episode #3

Sadie Leishman from Malouf

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In this episode of Beyond the Inbox, Sadie Leishman from Malouf talks about the challenges of marketing mattresses and how Malouf differentiates itself in a crowded market. She points out that in the bedding and furniture industry, there are certain standards that brands need to meet to stay competitive, such as free shipping, and then suggests that Malouf differentiates itself through trust and a consistent customer experience. Malouf aims to be a partner where customers can find all their sleep products, get tips on sleep, and feel a sense of community around a product and industry that's typically seen as very commodity-based.

Leishman emphasizes the importance of fostering a sense of community among customers, which is focused on the idea that everyone needs to sleep and that good sleep is the foundation for other values in life. She explains that sleep is often the first thing that people prioritize, but it leads to all of the other things that matter, such as being a good parent, employee, or athlete. By focusing on these values, Malouf is able to make sleep products more engaging and personalized.

Leishman also discusses innovative approaches to email marketing, including browse abandonment workflows and SMS. She explains that Malouf has a unique email workflow for browse abandonment where the email says, "We know it's late, we'll be here in the morning, so try and put your phone down, try and get some sleep, and we're here for products that are gonna help when you wake back up." By showing empathy and prioritizing customers' sleep over any purchase that could be made in the wee hours of the morning, Malouf is able to build trust with customers and differentiate itself from other brands that push for the sale all the time.

Leishman emphasizes the value of trust and building long-term relationships with customers, which is crucial for selling high-ticket items like mattresses. She explains that Malouf's 100-night sleep guarantee is a great safety net for customers who are worried or concerned about making a purchase. Additionally, she mentions the role of SMS in a comprehensive marketing strategy, which is a great way to target people with very timely information. SMS is more instant than email, which makes it a great way to offer personalized experiences for customers.

Overall, Leishman highlights the power of email and SMS in building a loyal customer base and fostering a sense of community among customers. By focusing on customer values and meeting them where they prefer to hear from Malouf, the company is able to establish itself as a brand that truly cares.

Read the transcript:

Sam (00:36):

Sadie, I wanted to ask you, I know prior to working at Malouf, you worked in retail, and I wanted to ask you how working in retail informs the type of marketing that you're doing at Malouf today.

Sadie (00:50):

Yeah, so working in retail, I learned a lot about customers. I was working with them face-to-face, and so I think that has definitely strategized my take on marketing and realized that customer and customer experience is the focus of marketing and especially going into post covid era, a lot of people have a lot of choices if they want to purchase online, purchase in store. And so if we're able to make an experience that meets a customer no matter where they're at on the purchase decision, I think that that's the marketing that I'm most aligned with.

Sam (01:25):

One thing that really stood out for me about Malouf is how active it is with its email marketing. And I know will dig into that more in this interview, but I wanted to ask you, can you talk me through Malouf’s creative process for running email campaigns? Are you taking inspiration from other brands? Are you meeting as a team and discussing the types of campaigns you can run? Can you tell me more about that?

Sadie (01:56):

For sure. Yeah. Malouf is really unique in the fact that we have in-house creative teams, so it's really easy to collaborate with our copywriters and our designers and even our video and photo, which we don't use as much for email, but for email specifically, usually the process starts with a marketing and sales kickoff to determine strategy and goals or a hole that we see in our email strategy. And then, after that, I will take that strategy or goal to our creative teams and work with them to see how we can accomplish that in a way that's engaging, focuses on the customer, and meets our goals strategically. So I would say that after that conversation, it's a lot of back and forth of the creative teams implementing emails that they think are engaging and my opinion and strategy popping in for email best practices. And then I think one thing that we've been able to use incredibly well is AB testing to see what our customers are enjoying and what they're engaging with and then continuously updating and honing in on what is performing. So does that answer your question?

Sam (03:05):

Yeah, I would love to dig into it a little bit more. What are some of the surprising findings that you found from running tests?

Sadie (03:12):

Yeah, I would say email marketing has its standard, you know, checkbox things of having a call to action above the fold of the email, a few other things that you just assume are standard. And our creative teams came forward and just asked if we could test on certain emails, having a call to action below the fold so that we could better tell a story and have more engaging headers. And in some of those emails, we were actually able to see a higher engagement rate and higher click rate because the copywriting team and the design team were able to lay out that initial header in a way that really spoke to customers before we were calling them to an action to either visit our store or learn more.

Sam (03:55):

Are you striking a balance between, for instance, I know you recently run a campaign promoting President's Day, and I know on another channel in the past you have run a campaign where you talked about the Metaverse, and you have this video on April Falls day. And I wanted to ask you, where are these ideas coming from? Is it a combination of popular holidays that you know you can run campaigns on? Is it trends that you're playing on? Can you talk more on that?

Sadie (04:28):

Yeah, I think it's a mix of both. We definitely, every April Fool's Day, Malouf will launch an April Fool's video, and so that is stuck with that specific holiday, and that has centered a lot around the idea that in the channel that we mostly send that video through which our, our specialty retail channel, we are seen as a disruptor or innovator in the industry. And so that April Fool's video helps to lean into that brand ideal of being innovative and bringing products forward that is so good, you wonder if they're real. And so for April Fools, we bring forward videos that aren't real but are so close to being real that maybe our specialty retail customers think, wow, that's crazy that they would be doing that, and then realize that it's April Fools. But a lot of those ideas come from our video team here in-house, and I think it's a great way to one engage customers. It's brand building for our d TOC or e-commerce brands. And then it's also a great way to show our capabilities in-house for that specialty retail department to say, Hey, partner with us and work with us, and we're able to use tools to make these incredible April Fools videos, but you can also use these with resources that we can provide you with these teams.

Sam (05:47):

I wanted to ask you this later, but I think it's a good segue. Malouf competes with other DTC brands in the space, and how is Maloof differentiating itself in a crowded market? You talked about April falls and disrupting the industry what are some of the ways that you're doing that?

Sadie (06:08):

Yeah, I think especially in the bedding and furniture industry, there are brands that are, you have to have a standard or a foundation, you know, everyone has to have free shipping, everyone has to have these certain criteria to be able to stay competitive. And then the way that we, I think, differentiate is in trust and consistent experience. So with customers being able to easily shop multiple brands, we want to make an experience where they want to partner solely with Maloof. And we've seen that a lot in our industry where a lot of brands are focused on just mattresses or adjustable bases. And then some brands are focused on just accessories, but we're trying to partner as somewhere where you can get all of your sleep products, where you can get tips on sleep, where you can be engaged and feel a sense of community around a product and around an industry that's seen as very commodity based

Sam (07:04):

On the subject of community. I see you're posting a lot on social and Instagram in particular, and what does community mean to Maloof?

Sadie (07:16):

Yeah, I think community for us is focused on the idea that everyone needs to sleep and everyone has trouble sleeping at some point in their life, whether that's health-related, whether that's relationships or becoming a parent. There are multiple areas of your life where sleep comes to the back burner, and you prioritize other things, you know, it's a new job, and you're working extra hours, and sleep is always the first thing that is to go off your plate. And so I think there's this common hope or common desire for good sleep and the ability that it can make to lead into other values of your life. You know, you have to have good sleep to be able to be a good employee and work well. You have to have good sleep to be a good athlete and train well. And so this community, I think, is focused on the idea that within sleep, you can do all of these other things that matter, whereas sleep might not be your number one priority at the beginning, but it leads to all of these things. And so I think focusing on the idea that we're all doing this together and it doesn't have to be boring, it doesn't have to be standard, you can really make it what you want and create an experience that fits your, your personality and what works for you.

Sam (08:40):

When sleep isn't a priority for a lot of people, how are you bringing that back to the forefront of their minds? Are you having a lot of people that are familiar with the brands, and maybe they're on your email list for a while, and then they finally reach that threshold where they say, okay, now I'm ready to get a handle on this. What does that journey look like from prospect to customer to even lifelong customer and loyal list?

Sadie (09:08):

Yeah. I think it comes a lot from the customer's experience, and I like to say that they do a lot of the work, and we're just there to support them. But they have to have a realization that their sleep needs to be a priority. If we're just telling them that sleep's a priority and they don't think it's the case, then they aren't gonna make the investment in a lot of the products that we have here at Malouf. So our job is to support them in that journey, help them see the value of sleep in areas of their life that do matter, and then also just being continually on their mind, whether that is through email, through social, through PR, and viral YouTube videos so that when that aha moment of I need good sleep in order to live this life that I want to live comes, we are top of mind.

Sam (10:00):

I wanted to ask you about this, and I think this is a good segue into this, you told me recently about a really interesting email workflow that you're running that involves browse abandonment and how people browse very early in the early hours of the night. Can you tell me more about that?

Sadie (10:18):

Yeah, so it's a workflow that's kind of counterintuitive to your traditional brow abandon where you see that they're shopping on your site, and you remind them to come and shop right away. You know, usually, the call to action in a brand abandoned email is, or a brow abandoned email is Kate, return to the site, keep shopping, buy whatever it is that you were looking at. But we found that we need to set ourselves as someone who prioritizes their sleep over any purchase that we could get in the wee hours of the morning. So the email ba or the e yeah, the email basically says, we know it's late, we'll be here in the morning, so try and put your phone down, try and get some sleep, and we're here for products that are gonna help when you wake back up.

Sam (11:07):

That's super interesting. Do you think showing empathy is maybe a key differentiator versus others brands that are probably just pushing for the sale all the time?

Sadie (11:19):

Yeah, I definitely think so. I think it shows that, like I said, we care about their sleep, and we know that if they're up late at night, they probably do need our products, and so we're referencing they can still shop with them in the morning. But we understand that ideally, we don't want them awake from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM on their phone browsing. So

Sam (11:40):

Yeah. On the subject of workflows, can you talk more about how you're building these workflows? Are you recognizing failure points in the funnel and then building automations to solve those problems? Or is that something that you are testing over time and improving us when it's necessary?

Sadie (12:04):

Yeah, I think there are some standard workflows that we have running that we're just constantly improving as necessary, that is a welcome series cart, abandoned series, browse, abandon, and a post-first purchase. And I think those are the standard kind of four pillars that you should always have running for workflows. But other than those four that are constantly running and being updated and being tested, we do have workflows that are focused on birthdays or repurchase recommendations, and those are ones that we've seen holes in our email strategy that we've been able to fill and a big area that we've seen support from Drip in that is recommendations from Drip and saying, Hey, we think that you should implement this workflow. And we have seen great success with that and have been super happy.

Sam (12:57):

That's really great to hear. It's interesting, we've talked a few times about the second and third purchases, and I wanna ask what, what is the typical buyer's journey looks like in terms of these first-time purchases. Are they buying a sleep system first, and then maybe you are upselling or downselling related items or is it easier to go for a small ask and then upsell them over time? Because these are multi, these are three $4,000 mattresses, and I understand that you need a lot of trust before making that kind of purchase. Can you talk more about that?

Sadie (13:33):

Yeah. Our current strategy or current situation is that most people are buying accessories like our pillows or our sheets first, and then we're building that trust with them over that purchase experience, and then when it comes a time that their mattress is needing refreshing or they wanna make the investment in a sleep system, we are there with a trusted experience that they're able to rely on to make that big purchase like you said.

Sam (14:00):

I noticed on the site you can talk to a sleep expert if I got that correct. And how does, how does that factor in with the buying process?

Sadie (14:09):

Yeah, so one thing since we do operate in both like an in-store specialty retail channel and a D G2 C channel is we saw a hole in e-commerce selling of mattresses that you don't have someone there to guide you through the process and walk you through, whereas you go in an in-store experience and you see a retail sales associate that's going to help you determine the best mattress. And so we have as much information on the site as you can, but that sleep specialist is there in the interim of an RSA or a retail sales associate to be able to walk them through the process, answer any questions that maybe aren't on the site or aren't clear to the customer. And we've seen great success in that, in knowing that it is a big purchase that they're needing to make. And if we can support them when they're on the fence, they're more likely and more confident to make a purchase.

Sam (15:05):

I speak to a lot of e-commerce founders and specialists, and what I always find fascinating is when they share objections, potential buyers have to buy their products and services that you would never think of. And are there any unusual objections that people have when buying new mattresses that maybe you don't address on the site, and that's why you need a sleep expert to help them overcome those objections?

Sadie (15:32):

Yeah, I think with mattresses, there is definitely just a personal preference, and without feeling them, it's hard to know, you know, do I like a really firm mattress or do I like a softer mattress, and am I going to like sleeping elevated with my head and my feet or is that gonna feel uncomfortable and weird to me? So I think that that's a big one with mattresses. I also think something that our sleep specialist team gets a lot is if our mattresses and adjustable bases are compatible with certain furniture pieces or areas that they have already in their home. Cuz we offer furniture, mattresses, and adjustable bases, but that sleep system can also be separated out into individual products that they can bring into their home. So I think a lot of the questions revolve around, you know, I have this headboard and this base, but I don't know if that's gonna work if I buy this, you know, $3,000 product.

Sam (16:28):

Yeah, it's such a fascinating industry because historically, when you were buying a new mattress, you would go to the store, and you would actually lie down on the bed, and you would test it. And I was just reflecting on what you said because it is true, it's hard to know what type of mattress you like, and it's a pretty big commitment. You're gonna have this for several years. And I'm sitting here wondering, does the refund policy help with mitigating those fears? Because I know you have this incredible refund policy, and do you think it's all of these elements working together to really put the buyer at peace when they're making this kind of decision?

Sadie (17:09):

Yes, I definitely think so. The, it's a hundred-night sleep guarantee, and that guarantee basically says if, if you buy this and it wasn't the right decision, we'll make it right. And I think that that's a standard in the industry, but if it's communicated well and placed in a way that's kind of at that crutch of wanting to make a purchase, it's able to put people at ease when they're, when they're making it and then more likely than not, they're excited and happy, and the product works, but it definitely is a great safety net for those that are very worried or concerned, and they've had that in-person before. And for Malouf, one of our target audiences is Gen X. So a lot of that audience is used to going in-store and having that in-store experience. And so we found that having more options or more safeguards really helps them make a purchase.

Sam (18:11):

I know a lot of people will be listening to this and might be considering, well, I'm in what's typically considered a dull industry, and I wanted to ask you if you are in e-commerce and you're selling products that maybe a difficult to promote in emails, maybe they're, they're not the jazziest of products that you can show off in emails, what would you say to people that are in industries where maybe it's, they feel it's difficult to promote what might be considered, you know, dull products?

Sadie (18:48):

Yeah, my first response to that is it doesn't need to be dull, and it doesn't need to be boring. Sleep products Yeah. Of any industry, you could consider those to be very commodity-based, but I think you need to focus on what it leads to. So for sleep, great sleep leads to being a great parent, a great employee, and a great athlete. It allows you to be able to do all of the things that are exciting to you. So I think that's the biggest focus. You know, if it's a toothpaste company, you focus on what a great smile can do, and what a clean healthy mouth can do for you. But you need to focus on the values that your customer has and see your product as a requirement to be able to meet those values.

Sam (19:38):

It's interesting, we spend a lot of time looking at different emails from different brands from different industries, and it's funny that you mentioned toothpaste because I wrote an email recently talking about a brand that ran a campaign on Valentine's Day and they made fun of themselves saying, look, you're not going to give a loved one toothpaste on Valentine's Day, so why not you, why not gift yourself instead and here's a link so you can go and do that. And I always appreciate when different industries don't take themselves too seriously, and I really feel like those are the type of brands that are worth investing in.

Sadie (20:14):

For sure. Yeah, I think that that is a great email campaign, and I'm sure that the customers that read it either did purchase or have a heightened connection to the brand.

Sam (20:26):

Yeah. You have, or Malouf rather has, a lot of different channels that it's connecting with its audience on. Do you think email is the main channel that you're gonna double down on this year? Are you looking to do more with email, or is there something else on the horizon that is exciting you more right now?

Sadie (20:47):

Yeah, I definitely think email and SMS is another option that we've been seeing great success with, but email, for sure, the opportunity to see data based on your customer history and make decisions based on that, that drives revenue is needed right now in a year where, you know, companies are worried about consumer behavior and purchasing decisions, and so I definitely think email isn't going anywhere and if anything is number one for us this year.

Sam (21:20):

I wanted to ask you about that because I noticed in the photo of a lot of your campaigns you have something called text club, and you're also, if I understand correctly, offering an additional discount, I assume to incentivize more people to leave their email. I wanted to ask, what is the role of SMS in mail's overall marketing strategy, and how are you using it in conjunction with email?

Sadie (21:45):

Yeah. So SMS, I think, is a great way to target people with very timely information, whereas sometimes email they don't get to their email inbox for a few hours. We feel the SMS is more instant in how it's received, and so we have SMS for, you know, the last day of sales or one day only sales and a lot of new product launches where it's very timely. I don't think that it will replace email by any means, but it's a way for us to meet the customer where they prefer to hear from us, and some of that is SMS.

Sam (22:26):

I think that's a great place to start wrapping up. Where can our listeners learn more about Malouf?

Sadie (22:34):

Yeah, so if you are wanting to see our D two C site and learn more there, it's Malouf home.com, so that's M A L O U F and then home.com or in the footer of our D two C website, you can find our store locator and see any Maloof products in store there.

Sam (22:53):

Perfect. Well, I really appreciate your time today, Sadie, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Maloof does in the coming weeks and months.

Sadie (23:02):

Thank you. Yeah, we're excited.

Sam (23:04):

Thanks, Sadie.